U.S. Heat-Related Heart Deaths Set to Skyrocket with Rising Temperatures

Rising Temperatures in the U.S. to Lead to Increase in Heat-Related Heart Deaths

News Picture: U.S. Heat-Related Heart Deaths Will Multiply With Warming Temperatures

As the scorching summer days become a regular occurrence, brace yourselves for a chilling statistic: the number of Americans succumbing to heat-related heart issues or strokes could soar in the next few decades, warns a recent study[^1^]. If greenhouse gas emissions are not curtailed, the United States could witness a more than triple increase in preventable heat-related deaths by mid-century[^1^]. Talk about adding fuel to the fire!

This impending catastrophe is set to hit older adults and Black Americans the hardest, intensifying the existing racial disparities in heart disease[^1^]. However, there’s a glimmer of hope amidst the sweltering heatwaves. The study suggests that implementing current proposals on reducing emissions could potentially ward off some of these heat-related fatalities[^1^]. Dr. Sameed Khatana, lead researcher and an assistant professor of medicine, highlights the urgency by stating, “Our study suggests there could be a benefit from reducing emissions, and within a short time frame”[^1^]. So, let’s put those emissions on ice!

We’ve long known how heatwaves turn up the heat on strokes, heart attacks, and other cardiovascular complications, especially for individuals with preexisting risk factors[^1^]. The cardiovascular system, with the heart at its core, plays a pivotal role in regulating body temperature. When the mercury rises, the heart works overtime, pumping blood to the periphery of the body to release heat through sweat[^1^]. But for some vulnerable souls, this stress becomes too much to handle[^1^]. It’s a classic case of your heart in a sweat!

Now, hold your breath, because things are about to heat up. With an aging population and more Americans flocking to hotter regions, coupled with the projected increase in extreme heat days, we’re heading for a potential catastrophe[^1^]. The researchers analyzed the data on cardiovascular deaths and extreme heat days from 2008 to 2019 to paint a vivid picture of the future[^1^]. Brace yourselves because it’s not a pretty sight!

Under a moderately positive scenario, where greenhouse gas emissions are somewhat controlled, heat-related cardiovascular deaths are projected to more than double – averaging at 4,320 deaths annually[^1^]. It seems the heat is turning deadly on a larger scale! However, the situation is far grimmer in the second scenario, where no measures are taken to curb emissions[^1^]. In this case, Americans will be sizzling in roasting temperatures for a whopping 80 days each year, and heat-related cardiovascular deaths will more than triple, reaching a staggering 5,491 per year across the nation[^1^]. It’s enough to make your heart skip a beat!

But wait, there’s more. These figures are likely gross underestimations, as heat-related deaths aren’t formally tracked by public health agencies or recorded as such on death records[^1^]. The silent killer strikes again! But don’t sweat it, because temperature responds promptly to changes in greenhouse gas emissions[^1^]. So, if we put the heat on curbing those emissions, we can expect a significant reduction in extreme heat days and heart-related deaths, relatively quickly[^1^]. It’s time to put these emissions on ice for good!

The study also shed light on how increases in extreme heat will disproportionately affect Black Americans, with an almost fivefold increase in heat-related cardiovascular deaths compared to their white counterparts[^1^]. The reasons behind this disparity are multifaceted. Black Americans are more likely to reside in urban areas where concrete traps heat and air conditioning is scarce[^1^]. Additionally, many people of color are exposed to scorching temperatures through their outdoor jobs[^1^]. It’s time to give these communities some shade!

Experts recommend a range of measures to protect vulnerable residents from the blazing sun. Planting trees in urban neighborhoods to provide shade, creating cool and inviting cooling centers, and developing heat action plans are a few steps that communities can take[^1^]. And if you happen to be outdoors under the scorching sun, don’t forget the three essential ingredients to survive: water, shade, and rest[^1^]. It’s time to keep our cool!

Now, let’s take a moment to acknowledge that this study focuses solely on heat-related deaths. Countless other individuals experience non-fatal cardiovascular complications during heatwaves, which can have long-lasting effects on their health and quality of life[^1^]. As Dr. Khatana puts it, cardiovascular deaths are just the tip of the iceberg[^1^]. It’s time to put on our detective hats and uncover the full extent of these boiling complications.

More Information:

For more tips on surviving extreme heat, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention[^1^].

Sources: [^1^]: Source: Sameed Khatana, MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, and staff cardiologist, Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Philadelphia; Kristina Dahl, PhD, principal climate scientist, Union of Concerned Scientists, Cambridge, Mass.; Circulation, Oct. 30, 2023, online

QUESTION: Heart Disease Quiz In the U.S., 1 in every 4 deaths is caused by heart disease. Take our Quiz and test your knowledge![^2^]

Let’s wrap this up with a bit of humor and a call to action. So, next time you feel the heat turning up, remember that it’s not just a matter of sweating it off; it could be a matter of life and death. Let’s put our collective efforts into curbing emissions, planting trees for shade, building inviting cooling centers, and ensuring water, shade, and rest for all. It’s time to beat the heat and save lives together!

Stay cool,

Health Expert

P.S. Have you ever had a “heat stroke” of luck? Share your experience in the comments!